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Thursday, 4 April 1946

Mr FULLER (Hume) .- I support the three measures. I do so, because I realize that these proposals are of vital importance to the nation; and I believe that if honorable members opposite would abandon their political vendetta against the Government and work in the interests of the nation, they, too, would realize the importance of giving ro the Commonwealth the powers sought under these measures. One thing we should have learned from the war is that it is absolutely necessary that power be granted to the Commonwealth to deal with all matters that are purely national in character. For years, members of all parties in this Parliament have been advocating the granting of more powers to the Commonwealth; but, invariably, when a Labour government advances such proposals, the Liberal party and the Australian Country party find excuses for opposing them. They always draw red herrings across the trail. They described t he man-power proposals submitted at the last referendum as industrial conscription and industrial regimentation. I have no hesitation in saying that only for that misrepresentation the other powers sought at that referendum would have been granted to the Commonwealth. The Government looks forward to the granting of the powers sought under these measures. No one will deny that an alteration of the Constitution along these lines is long overdue. Although the f ramers of the Constitution could not visualize the changes that would take place in the economic life of the country, they realized, nevertheless, that as the country progressed it would be necessary to alter the Constitution to meet new conditions. For that reason the Constitution provides for referendums in order to enable the people themselves to make whatever alterations they think fit. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) and other honorable members opposite have emphasized the necessity to grant powers of this kind to the Commonwealth. In 1938, the honorable member for Indi stated that the present system was not only deplorably unsatisfactory, but also positively dangerous to our national security. Members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party have realized that truth for years, but despite their promises to provide for the orderly marketing of primary products, they have not done anything. When the Labour party assumed office in 1941, it utilized its defence power under the Constitution to demonstrate to the farmers what could be done to stabilize our primary industries. The Attorney-General in his second-reading speech, produced the following statistics to show how primary producers hadbenefited financially under the Labour Government:-


Those substantial increases were made possible only because the Labour Government provided for the orderly marketing of primary products, despite the loss of oversea markets as the result of war. Therefore, is it any wonder that primary producers fear that their incomes will diminish if the Commonwealth can no longer control the marketing of their produce? To-day, farmers are better off economically than ever before, and I have no fear of what will happen when the Government's referendum proposals are submitted, to the man on the land, lit is inconceivable that they , will oppose them. If they do, primary producers will return to the situation that existed prior to 1939 when they were almost bankrupt. In those days, they were at the mercy of financial interests which fleeced them to the greatest possible degree. To the farmers, I address this question : Are they prepared ' to return tq the situation which existed prior to the outbreak of the war in 1939, or will they ensure their economic future by' voting for the Government's referendum proposals, thus retaining the existing marketing organization, which has given to them economic stability?

In 1935, the right, honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) declared that the barriers which prevented the granting of full assistance to the wheat industry had to be swept aside. He said that, without legal certainty, the Commonwealth could not introduce organized marketing schemes. No truer word was ever spoken, and his remarks concerning the wheat-growers were equally applicable to all primary producers. By voting for the Government's referendum proposals, the man on the land will have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Certain interests are always opposed to the granting of full powers to the Commonwealth Govern.ment. because they realize that so long as State governments possess certain powers, they can secure the veto of any proposal that is inimical to their own selfish ends. They have a majority in the Legislative Councils of all States, with the exception, .of course, of Queensland,- which abolished its Legislative Council. Only recently, the Legislative Council of Tas mania refused to grant to the Common-, wealth Parliament the necessary power to control prices for the next three years.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.

Mr FULLER -What was the reason for the attitude of the Tasmanian Legislative Council? Because financial interests realize that their profits' would be curtailed as long as price control remained. They are not concerned about the welfare of the people. They are concerned only with profits. Moving around my electorate, I find that the main concern of the man on the land, including the wheatgrower and the sheep-farmer, is the question, " What will be our fate when the powers exercised by the Commonwealth to-day come to an end?" They are very much concerned about the stability of the industries in which they are engaged, not only this year or next year, but for many years ahead. That is why the Parliament and the country is being asked to confer upon the Commonwealth powers 1:6 stabilize the primary industries of Australia for a period of years.

I come now to social services. For the first time in the history of this country, the people of all States are enjoying a high standard of social services. The introduction of these benefits was long overdue. It is true that prior to the inauguration of the Commonwealth's social security programme, some States did provide certain social services, but there was no uniformity throughout the Commonwealth. Why should a resident of Victoria enjoy better social services than a person living in South Australia? The provision of social services is a national undertaking, and it is inconceivable that any one would oppose any portion of the social service legislation that has been passed by the Commonwealth Parliament. However, if the Government's referendum proposals . be rejected, it is probable that many benefits now being enjoyed by the people will be withdrawn, with the result that Australian citizens will find themselves in very much the same position rs they were before the war. Now and for all time, whatever .doubt may exist in regard to the power of the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate for social services must be removed. No doubt members of the Liberal party of Australia and the Australian Country party will oppose the Government's industrial proposals. I have . always been amazed to hear members of the Liberal party telling the people of this country what little confidence they have in themselves as legislators. In effect they say to the people, "Do not give us power to do certain things. We have not been elected for that purpose. You must elect a special body to do what we ourselves are incapable of doing, or give to the State governments the powers that you wish to invest in us ". The former proposal is ridiculous. The same position arose in regard to finance. The Opposition does not want the Common.wealth Parliament to control the finances of this nation. It wants a body of men who are not responsible to the people to have that authority. Is there any just reason why conditions in industry such as hours of labour and the basic wage should not be uniform throughout Australia and be determined bv the Commonwealth Parliament? I have noticed frequently that when there is some industrial trouble in this country, honorable members opposite always endeavour to drag the Commonwealth Government into it. But what is the use of dragging the Commonwealth Government in when it has not power to mediate? That is one reason why the Government believes that increased power for the National Parliament is necessary. Do honorable members opposite consider that they are less competent to judge such matters than any body of men that might be appointed ? Surely it is time that humanitarian considerations were given some weight. In reply to the claim that the. State governments should be permitted to deal with many matters of a national character, I cannot do better than cite an argument advanced by the Melbourne Herald some years ago in a leading article, which pointed out that there was very little logic in the contention that powers which are regarded as safe in the hands of one government must be regarded as dangerous in the hands of- another. All governments are representative of the people and, as the Leader of the Opposition oncesaid, " Government in a democracy ismerely the expression of the popular will, and its purpose is the happiness and welfare of the people ". That is the belief of the Labour party, ' and is the reason for the Government's decision to seek wider powers for the Commonwealth Parliament.

I have listened carefully to every speaker from the Opposition side, and I- am somewhat baffled to know just where they stand. They remind me of " chooks " in a. fowl yard scratching for a bit' of food. Obviously the Opposition does not know just where it stands on these proposals. The Australian Constitution was framed in 1900 when men wore " swallow-tail " suits and " snake-charmer " trousers, and travelled by horse and buggy. To-day we are wearing sac suits and riding in motor ears and aeroplanes, but- we have a " snake-charmer " Constitution. It has not inarched with the times, and requires substantia] amendment. The National Parliament must be clothed with additional powers in order that it may safe- . guard effectively the welfare of the na tion.

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